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Green Mountain Aims to Brew Energy with Coffee Waste

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January 5, 2012

Green Mountain Coffee has teamed with the University of North Dakota and bioenergy specialist Wynntryst LLC to convert waste from its coffee processing plant to energy.

Specifically, the coffee company -- best known for its single-serve Keurig brewers and coffee pods -- is working with the Energy & Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the university, which is leading a project to develop an efficient renewable electricity technology for coffee-processing plants. Wynntryst, LLC, based in South Burlington, Vt., will develop a gasification power system to utilize the waste from a coffee-processing plant to produce energy.

In addition to its Keurig brand, Green Mountain Roasters also distributes many other coffee products to companies around the world, including Starbucks and McDonald's. Its waste stream includes coffee residues, plastic packaging, paper, cloth or burlap and plastic cups.

"This project is an extension of work performed by the EERC for NASA, which explored the conversion of waste from a space station and future Martian and lunar bases into heat and power," said Deputy Associate Director for Research Chris Zygarlicke. "This project will similarly utilize a mostly renewable and bio-based waste and convert it into electricity for the coffee industry."

"The first step of the project is to demonstrate that we can gasify the complex mixture of waste and produce clean synthetic gas, or syngas, by utilizing the EERC's novel advanced fixed-bed gasifier (AFBG) system on the biomass-residue mixture," said Project Manager and Research Scientist Nikhil Patel.

The syngas will then either be utilized in an internal combustion engine (or a fuel cell) for efficient production of electricity and heat, or be converted to high-value biofuels or chemicals. The pilot-scale tests will evaluate the quality of syngas that can be produced from the Green Mountain waste.

"Over the years, the EERC has developed and tested numerous small gasifier systems like this on a variety of biomass feedstocks," Zygarlicke said. "The EERC system has already produced power by gasifying forest residues, railroad tie chips, turkey litter, and other biomass feedstocks and burning the produced syngas in an on-site engine generator. The coffee industry residues will be similarly tested."

 

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